IND VS AUS Quarter-Final: World Cup 2011 gets perilous today.
Cricket News Updates! Today is the day this World Cup gets perilous. India take on Australia in Motera and we are guaranteed to lose either the winners of the last three World Cups or the hosts and favourites. After 33 days of preamble the juices are well and truly flowing.
And what a perfect match up it is. In the light blue corner we have the Indians who will take to the field with the finest ODI batting line up known to mankind. At the top of the order sit two of the all time greats; Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar .
As an Englishman I was brought up to believe there would never be a pair to match Hobbs and Sutcliffe. Haynes and Greenidge came close, Langer and Hayden fell just short, but Sehwag and Tendulkar leave the legendary Englishmen narrowly in their wake.
Despite both being right handed they are magnificently contrasted. Tendulkar is technically perfect, quick on his feet and willing to bat all day. Sehwag hasn't moved his feet in 10 years even to run between the wickets, is technically suspect against the short ball and gets bored more quickly than a five year old boy in an interior furnishings shop. But he possesses the best eyes and speediest hands in the known universe. He has also hit his first ball for four on each of the five occasions he has batted. That is just ridiculous.
Next up is an array of quality in-form batsmen; Gambhir, Yuvraj, and Kohli supported by the big hitting Pathan and Dhoni. With that kind of strength in that kind of depth what hope is there for any bowling attack? Well, as luck would have it for all of India's opponents to date, hope there is aplenty as the lower order has consistently thrown away match winning positions through an over-eagerness to score mammoth totals and a baffling inability to read the match situation.
In part this desperation to score so heavily is the result of anxiety over a gruesomely mediocre attack. Zaheer Khan is currently relied on to provide both containment and wickets. Harbhajan continues to frustrate while the dismally benign Pathan and Munaf Patel may as well negotiate their figures with the opposing side before the start of play. However, the welcome but insanely delayed introduction of Ashwin adds wicket-taking potential. I would play him and Chawla, dispense with a second seamer and return to the giddy days of the early 70s when India frequently took to the field with three quality spinners.
In the rather migraine-inducing yellow corner sit the current champions, Australia. Unbeaten in 34 matches until their rousing trouncing at the hands of Pakistan on Saturday, they have adopted the unique and seemingly perverse strategy on the sub-continent of packing their side with fast bowlers. But when you've tried ten spinners in four years, none of whom consistently averages below 40 with the ball, why not put your faith in what you do best?
And so far it's pretty much worked for Australia, partly because all three pacemen, Tait, Johnson and Lee, are so different. Lee is the steadiest of the three but is hugely experienced in Indian conditions and still pushing 90 mph. Tait can go for 12 in an over but also beat the very best batsmen for pace, and Johnson is the worst kind of bowler to face. He has no clue what he'll bowl from one delivery to the next and is thus the perfect man to break up those tricky mid-innings partnerships when the batting side are cruising.
Add to that the steady trundlers of Shane Watson and you have a decent attack. If I were Australian I'd be pushing for the inclusion of David Hussey at the expense of Cameron White to add some flat brisk off spin and effective earnest nudges in the middle overs, but otherwise the Australians have for once got their team selection almost spot on.
Australia's real problem lies in the batting. Currently they have two lower order hitters opening the innings. This is fine as long as they do the decent thing and get out once the initial power plays are complete, allowing proper batsmen (Clarke and Hussey) to push the ones and twos. But the form of Ponting is a serious worry.
He has been fractious and out of sorts for about a year now. His feet are still moving in that firm decisive fashion that used to put the fear of God into bowlers, but his hands now take a while to catch up. He is clearly raging at the dying of the light but his players, inexplicably, appear to adore him.